© 2024 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Scroll down to see all available streams.

Collins Greeted By Protesters Outside Fundraiser Hosted By Trump's 'Judge Whisperer'

J. Scott Applewhite
Sen. Susan Collins, joined at left by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, walk to the Senate chamber for votes on federal judges Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins was greeted by protesters Thursday when she arrived for a campaign fundraiser in Northeast Harbor hosted by the man often described as President Donald Trump's "judge whisperer."

Leonard Leo is the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group credited with the right's reshaping of the federal judiciary that has accelerated under President Trump.

Protesters staked out Leo's home in Northeast Harbor — valued at over $4 million according to property tax records— and held signs chastising Collins for last year voting to confirm Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a judge recommended by Leo who pro-choice activists say is a threat to a woman's right to an abortion.

Leo has donated $2,800 to Collins's re-election bid, as has fellow Federalist Society member Boyden Gray, who was photographed at Thursday's event.

Leo also leads a web of "dark money" conservative advocacy groups that has funneled millions of dollars to boost the nominations of Kavanaugh and Trump's other Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. It is unclear if those organizations will engage in Collins's reelection bid, but an array of similarly opaque liberal groups have already begun running digital and television ads highlighting her controversial votes since Trump became president.

Collins has defended her Kavanaugh vote and has said she believes he won’t vote to overturn a landmark court ruling that outlawed state abortion bans.

In a written statement, her campaign spokesman Kevin Kelley said, "It's laughable that the same people who tried to buy Senator Collins' vote for more than $4 million are now saying she sold her vote in exchange for a 20-person fundraiser in Maine."

Kelly was referencing Mainers for Accountable Leadership, which helped a crowdfunding campaign during the Kavanaugh confirmation process that will award over $4 million to Collins's eventual Democratic challenger. 

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.